Washington D.C., Oct. 8 – Gov. Jeff Colyer has declared October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Kansas.
“Every person has value and giving individuals with disabilities opportunities for meaningful employmentempowers them toward self-sufficiency and a greater sense of personal growth,” said Gov. Jeff Colyer. “I am pleased to see that our state continues to improve its ranking in this very important area, and I hope to continue to see more and more employers finding ways to create employment opportunities for Kansans with disabilities.”
This proclamation comes after a year of job growth among people with disabilities in Kansas and nationwide. Last year, under Gov. Colyer, 5,130 Kansans with disabilities got new jobs.
Meanwhile, President Trump issued a statement saying that his Administration “reaffirms its support for all the employers who hire Americans with disabilities, providing opportunities for success. It is important that all our Nation’s job seekers and creators are both empowered and motivated to partake in our booming economy and apply their unique talents and skills to the growing workforce.”
He added, “We recognize the achievements of Americans with disabilities whose contributions in the workforce help ensure the strength of our Nation. We also renew our commitment to creating an environment of opportunity for all Americans and educating people about disability employment issues.”
An annual celebration, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is dedicated to raising awareness about disability employment issues and celebrating the incredible contributions of people with disabilities. In total, there are 188,671 working-age Kansans with disabilities. That includes people who are blind or deaf or have other physical conditions such as spinal cord injuries, as well as people with invisible disabilities including learning disabilities, mental health or Autism.
Among them, 84,6262 have jobs. According to RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization that advances opportunities for people with disabilities, Kansas ranks 9th compared to the rest of the country.
“This new ranking is more than just a number, it translates to thousands of Kansans who have achieved self-reliance,” said Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel. She affirmed her Department’s commitment, adding, “By offering a helping hand to Kansans with disabilities, we give them a wonderful opportunity to realize their full potential.”
When people with disabilities are given access to the workforce, both the individual and the employers benefit. People with disabilities can bring new talents and ways of thinking to the table. In addition, they are more likely to be loyal to a company once they are hired. Companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Coca-Cola, UPS, IBM, Starbucks and Walgreens practice inclusive hiring and have had great success. As an employer, it is important to consider these talents and advantages when hiring workers.
“People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to Kansas’ economy,” adds Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility. “People with disabilities can work in hospitals and hotels, or apply their talents to develop computer software and website design. There are no limits to what they can do.”
Kansas offers a range of programs and efforts to empower people with disabilities into the workforce. End-Dependence (ED) Kansas is a collaboration between the Kansas Departments of Children & Family, Aging & Disability Services, Commerce, Health & Environment, and Corrections; even though, DCF’s Rehabilitation Services (RS) runs End-Dependence. ED Kansas is for high school graduates and adults who have little or no work experience. There are more than 2,000 employees and the objective is to get employees hired through individual placement supports (IPS) or Progressive Employment. Through employing people with disabilities, ED Kansas will let the public know that people with disabilities are hirable and ready to work. Colyer announced the launch in 2014, investing $25 million to the program.
Kansas additionally has made good use of Project SEARCH, an internship and employment program for recent high school graduates. It is offered throughout Kansas in Wichita, Newton, Salina, Lawrence, Manhattan, Mulvane, Chanute, Butler County, Derby and Johnson Country. Fields include healthcare, finance, hospitality, parks and education. It has a 69 percent success rate of post-internship employment.
“Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” said Steve Bartlett, the chair of RespectAbility. Bartlett, a former U.S. Congressman, the former Mayor of Dallas and a principal author of the Americans with Disabilities Act continued, “People with disabilities deserve equal opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence just like anyone else.”
Additional research and writing credit go to Heidi Wangelin, Laura Haney, and Stephanie Farfan.